Part I: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1096503.html
Part II: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1100922.html
Part III: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1104619.html#cutid1
Part IV: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1108537.html
Part V: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1112216.html
Part VI: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1124762.html
Part VII: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1134781.html
Part VIII: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1139412.html
Part IX: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1146552.html
Part X: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1155478.html
Part XI: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1164418.html
Part XII: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1173922.html
Magnolia was spending a lot of time staring at them as if they were cheating. Buffy gave the girl her best vapid smile and waited to see what came out this time.
“Y’all are just totally ringers, ain’tcha?” she asked slowly. Her accent thickened the more stressed she was. “Ah mean, you study demons, you have a Mentor…”
“So we know a few things.” WIllow had her stubborn face on. “WHat’s wrong with that? This is a school, right? Learning is important.”
“Learning is important,” Magnolia repeated slowly, like the words were foreign to her. Buffy wondered — not for the first time — if she was a demon, too. “Yeah. But you’re ruinin’ all the fun. Ah mean,” she twisted her lips up. “Well, I suppose if you’re used to demons…”
“You know,” Xander cut in, “we get that. I mean, there’s always that fun moment where you get to watch the new person’s mind break.”
“Exactly!” She looked pleased. Buffy waited. That wasn’t Xander’s friendly tone.
“Yeah, like, Buffy came to town, and you know, somehow Will and Jesse and I had never questioned —”
“I’m not there yet. So Will and Jesse and me, we knew a lot of people died. Gangs on PCP, wild animal attacks, barbeque fork accidents — our school paper has an obituary section, you know, and we just never questioned it.”
“…What?” The tall girl was lost, and, more than that, she was worried.
“…And then all of a sudden, the monsters have Jesse. And there we are, trying to figure out what’s wrong with the world while our best friend is dead. Tons of fun, right, for Buff? Showing us the real world?”
Buffy almost felt sorry for Magnolia. Almost. “There was certainly that entertaining look of shock and horror on your faces. And then the way you nearly got yourselves killed.”
“Oh, oh, and then there was that thing where…” Willow trailed off.
“Oh, no, Will, she wants fun, that’s a good place to start.” Buffy waved her hands in encouragement. “Please. Tell her how much fun we’ve had, dealing with the real world.”
“…That time your boyfriend lost his soul and tried to kill us all,” Willow continued, in a much smaller voice. “And—”
Xander took over. “And you did the awful, horrible right thing and killed him. I’m sure that was loads of fun. Right, Buffster? So much fun…”
“…I freaked out and pretended that the fun world didn’t exist for a while, yeah.” Buffy managed something that could have pretended to be a smile once, in a pageant or something. “Loads of fun.”
Magnolia held up her hands. “Ah surrender, ah surrender. Ah’ll even owe you a favor for that one… mebbe one each. By all that’s holy and the Lord’s dirty laundry, you three don’ need this school and it might not survive you.”
“But the thing is,” and all of a sudden Willow was in earnest-research-mode, “don’t you see? You know entirely different sets of information than we do. We look at your friend with the bat wings and we don’t know what sort of demon she is. But I’m betting you, you look at her and think — well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? We don’t know what you think.”
“Ah beg your pardon?” At this point, Magnolia looked lost, confused, and a little bit offended. It was Willow’s turn to hold up her hands.
“Not like that! Well, all right, I’m not sure exactly what you were thinking there, but that’s sort of the point. The point is, you look at your friend, and you’re not seeing demon. So the thing is, there’s a lot we can learn from what you do see when you look at her. And if you’re thinking that people are called demons that aren’t — well, there’s a lot of world we haven’t seen yet. Maybe things are different in Sunnydale. I mean, hellmouth, mouth-into-another-dimension…”
“Breathe, Will.” Xander patted her again. “What Willow’s trying to say is that there’s probably something we could learn here, with sexy naked girls with wings, far from the Hellmouth. Buffy?”
“…We can’t leave the Hellmouth.” It was a weak protest, and, besides, she wasn’t really paying attention anymore. Something had caught her attention, the way that normally only vampires and the occasional demon did. “Well, I can’t leave the Hellmouth.”
“You can and have,” Xander pointed out.
“You know that was an awful idea.” Buffy strode down the hall, chasing the feeling.
“What’s she lookin’ for? Hey, Buffy, where’re you goin’, sweetheart?”
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